Someone Else’s Light

Down the rabbit hole of photography we learn to love light. We love the stumbled upon, natural light that inspires us to stop everything and take pictures. We love the light we create and  control with our electronic flashes or other technology.

We love a little less the light that is neither inspiring nor controllable, but must be used to make pictures anyway. Actually, I love it a lot less. And I face it often, at dress rehearsals in community theater. Here are some examples from the Ojai Art Center Theater‘s upcoming production of The Odd Couple (Female Version).

During rehearsal, I capture moments difficult to conjure in a photo shoot, but I have to accept whatever lights/gels are in place at the time of rehearsal. The warming gels commonly in use play havoc with my camera's white balance. Compare the color of Flo's jacket in the image below.

At our publicity shoot, I got to control light and composition, but didn't get the comic energy of the rehearsal shot.

During the publicity shoot, I could get on stage with my lights and a wide angle lens. At a rehearsal, I’m in the back of the theater with a 70-200 zoom most of the time, shooting at ISO 1600 and hoping the gels on the lights don’t make the colors unusable.

Warming gels on the theater lights are sometimes so hot on fair-skinned actors I must convert the image to black and white so they don't look like Annoying Orange (google it).

Still, a rehearsal provides moments hard to capture in any other setting. And if the worst thing you can say about the light is that it is flat and even - well, things could be a lot worse.

Toni Pineau as Florence Unger

Jenna Scanlon as Olive Madison

The light is different on different parts of the stage. Sometimes it's pretty darn nice for a photograph.

I do plenty of available light shooting, but a play rehearsal is a strange animal. The stage is very carefully lit – for an audience that won’t notice the shadows in real time. That doesn’t always translate to beautiful photos, but with an eye for opportunity and some judicious cropping, one can still produce pleasant lobby, publicity, and keepsake photos for the production.

The linguini episode.

After the linguini episode.

1 Comment

Filed under Dance and Theater, Lighting

One response to “Someone Else’s Light

  1. Jude

    Hi Dean,
    Interestingly last evening at the VCCC they were highlighting ‘portrait’ lighting and they covered ‘gels’ w/flash and the effect on white balance. It was great
    that he could take a photo and show it immediately so we could see he differences w/wo gel filters on the flash.

    Thanks Dean, ‘you’ do excellent work.


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